The Butcher Of St Peter’s by Michael Jecks

The Butcher Of St PetersExeter, August 1317, and Estmund Webber is grieving. His daughter has died and his wife has committed suicide. And an altercation as he tries to bury his wife not only cripples his friend but shatters his mind.

November 1323, and Estmund limps his way through life. But his nights are spent watching over the children of Exeter – creeping into their rooms and standing guard as they sleep. But one night, Daniel, sergeant of the city, confronts an intruder in his children’s bedroom and ends up dead. Has Estmund’s mind broken so far that he would resort to murder – or did another hand slay Daniel.

Sir Baldwin Furnshill, Keeper of the King’s Peace is still recuperating in the city and finds himself drawn into the investigation. But with the country about to tip into another civil war, tensions are running high, and one of the most dangerous men in the city is about to make it a very dangerous place to be…

Book Nineteen of the Knights Templar series and once again, Michael Jecks has produced another top quality historical mystery… or has he? Michael is never one to write the same book twice and this one is probably closer to an historical thriller than a mystery. The majority of the plot is concerned with Jordan le Bolle, a deeply unpleasant creation, and his descent (admittedly from a pretty low position already) into out and out madness and paranoia, and how it affects those people around him, both those close to him and those who fear him. One sequence in particular, where he deals with a grievance regarding one of his prostitutes and one of his men, is utterly horrific, but serves to make clear that there is no question about the lengths that le Bolle would go to, making the later sections of the book even more gripping.

Of course, this is a Michael Jecks book, so even if the mystery takes a backseat at times, there is still time at the end for a twist in the tale – and a twist that makes perfect sense, even though it seems that there is no wiggle room in the events in the bedroom.

As ever, Michael brings the city of Exeter and his people to vivid life and his compelling narrative meant that, as often happens with his books, I ended up carrying it around with me to catch a quick chapter when I could. Looking forward to Book Twenty, which looks, if possible, to be even darker, but in the meantime, this is Highly Recommended.

And here’s Michael himself to give it a plug.

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